Is there a better singer than Gerhaher? when it comes to recitals, almost certainly not. And a better pairing than Gerhaher and Huber? it is hard to imagine. They may have had a genuine and deep rapport, but no eye-contact was needed. The Wigmore Hall was absolutely packed (in the audience James Baillieu had not rushed home after his consummate display earlier, and guitarist Milos Karadaglic.
It started with a visibly nervous Gerhaher seeming almost to clutch the piano for support. Why on earth this might be the case is beyond me and everyone else there. Beethoven's Ferne Geliebte to start, a pretty easy introduction. At times so quiet, but perfectly audible even in the lowest register. Projection perfection. It was followed by a heart-breaking but hardly easy-listening Schoenberg cycle Book of the Hanging Gardens. After the interval, some Haydn - in English - which somehow highlighted just how clever it all was, just how much attention to detail was given. I have no German but could have transcribed the entire cycle quite confidently (not just because of being on the second row). The Berg's Altenberg Lieder, hardly easy listening either. Programmatically, even if they share the connexions of love at a distance, Vienna, this second modernist piece made the evening harder work. Nobody seemed to mind.
To finish, touching Beethoven again: Adelaide. As an encore, some Mozart (unidentified, likely from his new Mozart CD). Only in Britain would an audience stay firmly seated after that.
What was really breath-taking, was the extend to which each syllable- or even some smaller element than this -was crafted in the most utterly exquisite fashion. This was the sort of craftsmanship you can't really fathom. In a museum some tiny painting executed with a single-hair brush. And with a pairing so deeply in sync, you really couldn't ask for more.
Christopher Cook captured the concert for radio 3, and you can listen here. Many times over the coming month. Click here.
Overall: a deeply and profoundly impressive display
Christian Gerhaher baritone; Gerold Huber piano
Beethoven, Schoenberg, Haydn and Berg
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827): An die ferne Geliebte Op. 98
Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951): Das Buch der hängenden Gärten Op. 15
Joseph Haydn (1732-1809): The Spirit's Song HXXVIa:41
The Wanderer HXXVIa:32
Sailor's song HXXVIa:31
She never told her love HXXVIa:34
Alban Berg (1885-1935): Altenberg Lieder Op. 4
Ludwig van Beethoven: Adelaide Op. 46